Mudslides, downed trees, flooded roads and swollen waterways. Again.
Winter storms keep reshaping soggy Sonoma County, with another drenching expected to deliver up to 2 new inches of precipitation Thursday.
The storm that hit early Tuesday brought torrential rain that swamped county roadways, creeks and rain gauges and pushed the Russian River above flood level for the second time this year. Hillside communities like Cazadero reported more than 5 inches of rain, while other parts of the county received up to 3 inches.
The river was expected to crest early today at 34.5 feet in Guerneville, a level that affects mostly low-lying areas. The muddy water likely will retreat below flood stage by this afternoon, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In a year where the river already reached 38 feet in January, some emergency officials expressed less concern Tuesday about waterways and more about the number of soaked hillsides giving way.
“The biggest thing for us is the slides,” said Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman. “We’ve had eight to 10 new ones, everywhere you go.”
After 2.77 inches of rain Tuesday, Santa Rosa now has received a total of 43.52 inches this season, essentially double the historical average. With so much rain, both drenched hillsides and trees keep giving way.
Emergency officials Tuesday received multiple reports of downed trees. Among them, a 100-year-old Douglas fir crashed into a Sebastopol home before dawn, slicing through the back of the house and landing just feet away from a sleeping woman.
The tree toppled over shortly after 5 a.m. following hours of torrential rain and strong winds. It upended with roots intact, leaving a gaping whole in Susan Nestor’s backyard.
“I was asleep — and all of a sudden a whomp and a flash, which was probably the electric lines being knocked out,” said Nestor, who has lived on Vine Avenue about 24 years.
The tree — 75- to 80-feet tall and at least 4 feet in diameter — took out a corner of the multistory hillside house, including the back deck and portions of a breakfast nook and bedroom.
“This thing was a monster tree,” said Sebastopol Fire Chief Bill Braga.
Around the county, rising waters Tuesday once more flooded roadways in familiar areas. San Antonio Creek crested its banks and blocked one of two southbound lanes on Highway 101 at the Marin County line from 9 to 10:30 a.m.
Flooding closed Highway 37 near Novato, a roadway that already has been partially or fully closed for about a dozen days this year. The intersection of Highways 12 and 121 south of Sonoma also was closed.
And the California Highway Patrol responded to about a half dozen stranded motorists who tried and failed to cross flooded stretches of county roads, said Officer Jon Sloat.
By 8 a.m. Tuesday, county road crews reported 12 roads closed from flooding, five from mudslides and five from fallen trees.
The downpours ended Tuesday morning, though skies remained overcast through the day.
But more rain is on the way.
Today the county could get up to three-quarters of an inch of rain and up to a half inch overnight before a new storm arrives, said Anna Schneider, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey.